Every year at Tearfund we leave the office for the day as a group and go off to ‘Staff Conference’ – it is an away day for the whole organisation where we spend time learing together, sharing together and having fun together. I really enjoy it.
One of the things we’re doing this year, which I’m particularly excited about, is to run a series of workshops where we’ll be able to wrestle with some really big issues and questions that we face as we seek to maintain our identity as a Christian organisation, working in God’s world and towards his kingdom.
One of my favourite theologians is Lesslie Newbigin – I’ve shared this passage before, but it’s important to keep repeating it and being aware of it:
‘Christian programmes for justice and compassion severed from their proper roots in the life of the local congregation lose their character as signs of the presence of Christ and they risk becoming mere crusades fuelled by a moralism that can become self-righteous. And the life of the worshipping congregation severed from its proper expression in compassionate service in the secular community around it risks becoming a self-centred existence serving only the needs and desires of its own members.’
– Lesslie Newbigin The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (1995)
I’ve written before about how it can be hard to maintain a passion for Jesus and dependency on him – not because we want to let that go, but because other things (all really positive things, on their own) can lead us to marginalise God without even realising it. I’ve also written about the way that abiding in Christ is something that we need to do as individuals and as a community in order to do this – which involves setting priorities and finding practical ways to allow us to develop our ability to integrate biblical understanding into every aspect of our organisational life. And that’s what we’re going to do for a few hours this week.
One of the things I think is of fundamental importance is to increase our knowledge of the bible and to explore and reflect on the ways that its teaching does and should relate to our work. So we’re going to hear from some great speakers and thinkers on four topics that are really important to Tearfund right now, and then we’re doing to delve into those by coming as a group of people who are all doing different jobs and asking, ‘How might this affect what I do?’ and ‘How can what I do be even more informed by scripture and by God?’
Because at the heart of all genuine Christian work is our relationship with, and dependency on the Lord Jesus. When we abide in Christ he shapes our identity, draws us into our calling and vocation, and empowers us for effective service. To abide in Christ is not a separate ‘spiritual’ activity but means deep engagement with Christ and the world He loves with our hearts, minds, emotions and relationships. And this is important for us as individuals and as a Christian organisation – so I’m really excited that we have the opportunity to do that this week.